Why Would an Engineer-Turned-Mom Care So Deeply about Apologetics?
Cathryn Buse has a passion for defending the faith. And like me, she cares deeply about reaching the next generation. She worked for about 10 years as an industrial and systems engineer on missile programs for the Department of Defense, at a rocket manufacturing facility, and then for a launch vehicle design program at NASA. As an engineer, she started teaching apologetics at her church. When she and her husband had their first son, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom, but also work part-time as a blogger and author. And she’s done a great job!
She blogs regularly at Defend the Faith Ministry and has written a timely book called Teaching Others to Defend Christianity. You can also find Cathryn on her FB page and on Twitter: @CathrynBuse. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I hope you enjoy the interview, and also consider connecting with her online.
SEAN MCDOWELL: How did you personally find a passion for apologetics?
CATHRYN BUSE: I became a Christian at a young age, was raised in a Christian home, and regularly attended a church that had sound Biblical teaching. However, when I went to college for my engineering degrees, I found my faith challenged in ways I was not prepared to face. I had classmates, friends, and eventually coworkers who questioned the very core foundation of Christianity. How did I really know there was a God? Doesn’t science answer all of life’s questions? How can there be only one way to Heaven? With the very authority and authenticity of scripture itself called into question, I needed to find truth from the scientific and academic world to show others the sufficiency of Christianity. So I began studying apologetics, both to reaffirm my own faith and to give a rational answer to others. I pored over books from the great minds of C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and Josh McDowell - amazing men who had wrestled with the same questions and gained a whole new level of confidence in the Christian faith. And I found myself fascinated by the logic that was behind it all. I knew what I believed was true, but now I had a way of articulating why that was true to a skeptic. My individual pursuit led me to a new passion of teaching apologetics to others. That started several years ago by teaching the youth at my church and has now grown to teaching adults of all ages and backgrounds, across denominations and in other cities.
MCDOWELL: How does your background in engineering shape the way you do apologetics?
BUSE: I’ve jokingly said my engineering brain is what drove me to put apologetics together in a “linear fashion.” Many of the great apologetics books out there had incredible information, but I wanted it to walk it in a straight line from point A to point B, or rather from atheism to Jesus, to connect the dots for a clear path to the cross. Too often people see the word “apologetics” and think it’s a memorization of statistical numbers or scientific facts to counter every point a skeptic would bring up. But it’s more about showing them the individual, logical steps from atheism, to finding a belief in God’s existence, to discovering that God is the Christian God, to understanding that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and resurrected from the grave. I think the engineering, logical way of thinking is what led me to lay it out in that way.
MCDOWELL: Does being a mom influence your approach to apologetics, if at all?
BUSE: Being a mom has reinforced to me the importance of apologetics. My two boys are preschoolers so they’re not where I would sit down and read my book to them, but I am able to teach them in a way that already gives that solid foundation behind the Biblical worldview and why we have one. I can bring that logical way of thinking to even their simple childhood questions (or maybe not so simple since my 4-year old has already asked me who made God!). It is wonderful for parents to teach their children the Bible but at some point they have to teach why the Bible and not the Koran or the Vedas or some other worldview. The academic community goes to great lengths to explain the Christian God away from the minds of our youth. It will chip away at that foundation of faith established by the church and the parents. So apologetics is essential to solidify that foundation of faith as standing on truth and to show our children that secularism does not adequately explain our world. Armed with that level of understanding, think about what a powerful force for the kingdom of God our youth can become! So as a mom, I’ve found that the need for understanding apologetics goes beyond just the student going off to college, but includes the parents – even those of us with preschoolers – so that we can begin at an early age showing our children the logical reason for our faith.
MCDOWELL: What led you to write a book? And what makes your book unique?
BUSE: Writing a book was not something I initially set out to do. As I continued to teach apologetics and it began to grow outside the youth and outside my church, I saw that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus needs to know these things. However, I knew from personal experience there weren’t many resources available that someone could just pick up and teach from. Plus, the topic of apologetics is intimidating to many people who feel like they need years of research and seminary degrees to teach it. So I wanted to make apologetics easier to teach so people would be willing to teach it. Seeing that need, I decided to provide others with my teaching material and it took the form of a book, Teaching Others to Defend Christianity. So the first unique thing about Teaching Others to Defend Christianity is its structure as a small group study. It is only six chapters and each chapter is a one-hour lesson with discussion questions at the end of each lesson. There is even presentation material available at my publisher’s website so it can be done either in a lecture-style setting or as a book study. It is written so that people can take this and teach directly from it.
Second, Teaching Others to Defend Christianity is unique by the topics that are covered. In our society, the biggest stumbling blocks to Christianity are atheism and relativism. It is difficult to tell someone they need to repent of their sins to seek God’s forgiveness if they don’t believe there is a god or if they don’t care which god it is. So I wanted something that showed the logical progression from atheism through relativism and into Christianity. The first three lessons in Teaching Others to Defend Christianity use science and philosophy to show that a God must exist. But which god is it and does it matter which god it is? The next lesson then shows that not all religions are the same and explains why Christianity stands apart as truth. Of course, that hinges on the life of Jesus so lesson five reaffirms the validity, accuracy, and reliability of the New Testament accounts of His life. The sixth and final lesson then logically assesses the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to confirm Him as the Son of God. So it is unique by showing a methodical progression out of atheism, rejecting relativism, and discovering Christianity.
Third, I take those essential apologetics concepts and put them on an understandable level. I want those points to be something that everyone can understand and most importantly, that everyone can remember. That is how we as believers can grow in our effectiveness as witnesses. Yes there is detailed scientific information in there, but witnessing is not about memorizing data. It is about the big picture of showing the logical conclusion that Jesus really is the Son of God and our only hope for abundant life. I want this book to help break down those intellectual barriers that people put up to reject religion and Christianity. I want it to build up the line of reasoning behind the existence of God and our accountability of our actions to that God.
MCDOWELL: If you had one core message the church needs to hear today, what would it be?
BUSE: Teach apologetics. Right now many Christians are fearful of having those difficult conversations with unbelievers. The church must teach apologetics on a regular basis to prepare for those encounters and remove that fear and hesitancy to engage unbelievers. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that God calls different people in the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The roles of the pastor, the teacher, or the evangelist is to prepare the believers to spread the Gospel. But we have to be mindful of the audience we are trying to reach. Generations before there was a common idea of God and a respect for the authority of the Bible, even though someone may not have believed in it. But now, our audience has changed. We are no longer like Paul preaching in the synagogues, reasoning from the Scriptures. We are now like Paul on Mars Hill in Athens, explaining to the philosophers and thinkers who the Unknown God is. I look at many churches today and see the very same unprepared, innocent believer that I had been going off to a spiritual battleground that they are woefully ill-equipped to fight. The church must appropriately equip the saints for the work that is now before us. And that must involve teaching and instructing in the foundational truths behind Christianity on a regular basis. We cannot leave the instructing of the mind only to the world of academia and secularism. We must address the intellectual side of the believer to give them the proper tools for the battle they face. After all, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.
MCDOWELL: You've started Defend the Faith Ministry. Can you tell me what the ministry entails, and what you hope to accomplish through it?
BUSE: I started Defend the Faith Ministry to show people how to defend their faith, as we are called to do in 1 Peter 3:15, and help them teach that to others. Under that idea, I have written Teaching Others to Defend Christianity as a tool for people to teach apologetics at their own churches and small groups, as well as to share with unbelievers. I even made my presentation material available to assist people in teaching through this apologetics study book. I also hope to provide additional teaching resources from other series that I’ve taught that address things such as the existence of suffering and the concept of evolution. Defend the Faith Ministry also includes articles written by me and others to challenge people to think critically about what they believe. Hopefully it will provide different answers to questions people may be faced with every day. What I really hope to accomplish with Defend the Faith Ministry is to teach others apologetics and equip them to do the same. I want to get people excited about understanding the depths of their faith so they will be emboldened to share it with others.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.